Published on Data Blog

Chart: Globally, 168 million children remain trapped in child labor

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO)’s  “World Report on Child Labour (2015)” report, there are 168 million children worldwide still trapped in child labor. While there has been significant progress against child labor—especially during the 12-year period beginning in 2000, when the percentage of children in child labor fell from 16 per cent in 2000 to less than 11 percent in 2012—prevalence of child labor is still very high in many countries in the Sub-Saharan African region where progress has also been the slowest.

In South Sudan, Burkina Faso, and some other Sub-Saharan African countries, one in three children who work do not go to school.

As per the ILO’s Making Progress against Child Labor report, 2011-2011, the incidence of child labor is highest in poorer countries. Twenty-three per cent of children in low-income countries are child laborers, compared to 9 per cent of children in lower middle-income countries and to 6 per cent of children in upper middle-income countries. In absolute terms, middle-income countries are host to the largest numbers of child laborers: there are a total of 93.6 million child laborers in middle-income countries, of which 12.3 million are in upper middle-income countries, while child laborers in low-income countries number 74.4 million. The fight against child labor, therefore, is by no means limited to the poorest countries.

The data on child labor are primarily gathered from household surveys. Although efforts are made to harmonize the definition of employment and the questions on employment in survey questionnaires, significant differences remain in the survey instruments that collect data on children in employment and in the sampling design underlying the surveys. Differences exist not only across different household surveys in the same country but also across the same type of survey carried out in different countries, so estimates of working children are not fully comparable across countries.


  1. Children in employment are those engaged in any economic activity for at least one hour during the reference period.
  2. Children in child labor are a subset of children in employment. They include those in the worst forms of child labor and children in employment below the minimum age, excluding children in permissible light work, if applicable.


Malarvizhi Veerappan

Senior Data Scientist, Development Data Group, World Bank

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